When I speak to members of the public about massage therapy, I tend to downplay the artistic side of it. Even though I highly value the way intuition shapes individual massage sessions, I sometimes fear mentioning that aspect of my work will cause people to dismiss what I do. That by acknowledging massage therapy as both a science and an art, it becomes something lesser rather than something greater.
The last weekend in September I had the amazing experience of assisting in an oncology massage class. It was beautiful to see my fellow massage therapists learning the power of light touch, and finding a passion for oncology massage.
It was also an excellent learning experience for me. That first day, the instructor began talking about the power of holding space with the intention of healing. I felt like she had somehow read my blog post about critical thinking in advance and was speaking directly to me. (As an aside, critical thinking is a major emphasis of this class.) Giving me an opportunity to re-evaluate what I had written, and to speak to the artistic component of massage therapy, rather than always emphasizing the scientific.
Sometimes the most powerful and beneficial work I have given to my oncology clients has been simply resting my hands on them and feeling if something changes. My hands will feel little flutters of fascial release, or I’ll just get a sense of space being created where it previously wasn’t. I get the sense of energy, yes, energy, shifting from stagnation to movement. My clients have often verbalized similar sensations, in ways that are most familiar or comfortable to them. Now, these things can’t be measured, but they’re happening and we’re experiencing them together. I still shy away from posting this, because it can’t be quantified or tested. For me personally it takes courage to admit that I believe this in a public space. Like Tracy Walton says, “If it happens on the table, it’s true.”
The other inspiration for this post was seeing the documentary, “N.E.D.” on September 18th. It was amazing to see these incredibly specialized physicians talking about the healing power of art. They formed the band, N.E.D. (short for No Evidence of Disease) to help raise awareness of gynecologic cancers like uterine and ovarian, and ended up finding a new way to connect with their patients. It’s a beautiful and moving film if you ever have the chance to see it. Afterward there was a Q&A with a local gynecologic oncologist who also mentioned that she sees medicine as both a science and an art. That was such a comforting thing to hear a physician say, I walked away feeling so much joy that these people are part of our medical establishment.
So, yes, my massage practice is informed by specialized knowledge and the critical thinking skills I continue to train. But, it is also informed by my intuition and healing intentions, and I am proud to say so. Massage is a science AND an art, and it’s better for that.